There have been some high profile announcements in the past 18 months about UK businesses optimising their websites (or building apps) to make shopping on them more appropriate to the scale of the device.
Heck, we’ve been (and are) involved in a few such exercises.
And to go along with it, we see some amazing hype in the mobile & marketing press to show off the amazing results that have happened since. A few such statements hit me between the eyes just today:
“EBay has forecast they will sell $5bn worth of products via mobile in 2011”
“New look [has seen] M-commerce sales increasing by 500% in the three months since launching their mobile site”
"One in four Starbucks transactions now done via mobile"
“mobile is an area that retailers can’t afford to ignore.”
But. Ebay excepted, perhaps as those are ridiculous figures, most of these sites are very fast translations of sites into something that works a bit better on a phone. And, don’t get me wrong, this is a VERY important step, as customers are clearly trying very hard to shop through their phones, but we’ve yet to really see the *next* and more important phase of mobile website and mobile shopping development kick in.
As with the desktop web before it, given the early adopters have proven that the public will shop via their phones, we should now be seeing clients take the Google mantra properly by the horns:
Don’t crunch your website onto a mobile phone template. Worse, don’t take the quick and cheap route of using everyone else’s (cookie cutter) mobile template and waste all the time, effort and money invested in your brand.
Start from scratch.
Imagine there was no desktop internet. Your customers just have their phones. They are out and about. They see your advertising (or that of a product you sell). They are inspired to find out about it, find out where they can get it (nearby in a shop, or order it remotely to be picked up on the way home, delivered to their office or to home, even). Think about the search.
Your brand and its associations in the minds of your customers.
How does (or should) that manifest itself on their phones?
Are you a dull, boring, me-too brand to them?
A purely functional enabler?
Or is your brand alive. A brand they engage with every day. The first place they go to see what’s new, fashionable, tasty, on offer etc etc?
There seems to be the beginnings of a struggle in the mobile landscape. The struggle to really approach the design and development of a mobile site (or app) from a clean starting point. Inventing from the ground up. And yet, there is still the tendency to hold back, to follow current ‘norms’, to replicate what has been shown to work elsewhere.
The irony, to me, is that the UK retailer that is at the heart of this perfect storm of mobile bland, only took that option because pre-existing commercial contracts and restrictions prevented it (in the short term) reinventing its mobile store from first principles.
Because it recognised the commercial opportunity mobile was offering, this brand took a bland and quick approach that integrated with its less-than-ideal existing platforms as a short-term fix so that it didn’t miss out completely for another 3 years.
The rest of the world seems to think that this is now “the right way to do it”.
Can’t wait for the first client to really deconstruct everything and build from the ground up.